Louisiana Lawmakers Hold Contentious Hearing on COVID-19 | Louisiana News

By MELINDA DESLATTE, Associated Press

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Gov. John Bel Edwards would not at present have plans to enact broad coronavirus vaccine mandates throughout Louisiana regardless of low immunization charges and a surge in COVID-19 instances overwhelming hospitals, the Democratic governor’s chief lawyer instructed lawmakers Monday.

The feedback from Edwards govt counsel Matthew Block got here as New Orleans began requiring the vaccine or a latest adverse take a look at for the coronavirus to enter eating places, bars, gyms, the Superdome and different indoor places.

Block spoke at a House well being committee listening to the place he and Louisiana’s chief public well being officer Dr. Joe Kanter have been heckled and criticized by an unruly crowd objecting to masks and vaccines. Security eliminated a number of folks from the room for refusing to put on a masks or for shouting objections to well being data.

As Kanter advocated for sporting masks to forestall the sickness’ unfold, one particular person within the committee room shouted: “They don’t work!” Another mentioned: “More lies!” Edwards has enacted a statewide masks mandate for indoor places, whether or not individuals are vaccinated or not. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention additionally urges indoor masking in public locations.

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As the listening to stretched over hours, Louisiana’s well being division introduced one other hospitalization document, with 2,956 folks with the coronavirus sickness filling up hospital beds and inserting pressure on the state’s well being care system.

Hospital leaders and different public well being officers have warned repeatedly the amenities are at a breaking level.

“I pray we’re close to the peak, I really do. I haven’t seen any evidence in our data that suggests we’re close,” Kanter told the House Health and Welfare Committee.

Ninety percent of the COVID-19 patients in hospitals are not fully vaccinated, according to state health department data.

Louisiana continues to have the nation’s highest per capita number of new COVID-19 cases over the last week, according to the CDC. Dozens of people are dying from the disease each day, with 188 COVID-19 deaths confirmed in Louisiana over the last week.

While New Orleans on Monday began its vaccine or testing requirement to enter businesses, the Louisiana State University, University of Louisiana and Southern University systems intend to require students to be vaccinated — with a state-approved list of exemptions — after one of the inoculations receives full FDA approval, expected within weeks.

Rep. Rick Edmonds, a Baton Rouge Republican, questioned whether Edwards wants to enact more widespread vaccination requirements.

“I think we’re all more than antsy about where we’re going,” Edmonds mentioned.

Block replied: “Is this something the governor is considering at this point in time? The answer is no.” He cautioned, however, that Edwards won’t eliminate the possibility in the future, depending on where the pandemic is headed.

Louisiana’s Republican Party voted Saturday to condemn New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell for requiring proof of vaccination or recent negative coronavirus test to enter businesses and called on the Legislature to reverse the action. Republican Rep. Chuck Owen, of Rosepine, proposed the resolution adopted by the GOP, calling the vaccine mandate “a threat to our liberty.”

At Monday’s listening to, Carencro Republican Rep. Julie Emerson requested the upper training system presidents to explain how college students can declare exemptions from the school vaccine mandates which can be anticipated to take impact later this 12 months.

Bossier City Republican Rep. Raymond Crews mentioned the Edwards administration must be doing extra to advertise taking nutritional vitamins and combating underlying well being circumstances like weight problems and diabetes that make somebody extra in danger for extreme signs once they contract COVID-19.

“Why are we pushing masks when a large swath of Louisiana doesn’t consent to it?” Crews requested. “When we force things on people that don’t want to do it, it just erodes the power of government.”

People testifying on the listening to have been break up on masks and vaccines. Several dad and mom objected to the masks requirement making use of to kids attending Ok-12 faculties. One lady described a masks as an “experimental” medical machine and known as the face overlaying requirement “child abuse.”

Democrats on the committee highlighted the in depth unfold of COVID-19 across the state and raised worries concerning the grim state of affairs in Louisiana’s hospitals.

“By not wearing our masks, could that cause harm to other people?” asked Rep. Travis Johnson, a Vidalia Democrat.

Kanter replied: “Without question.”

Also Monday, the New Orleans Public Schools system said it’s tracking the COVID-19 cases of 246 students and 53 staffers. the system stressed that 102 of the cases involve people who had not yet set foot in school this year.

More than 3,000 other students and staffers who had close contact with those individuals have been told to stay home under the system’s quarantine guidelines. The system has about 45,000 students in more than 70 schools.

“As a result of these mitigation efforts, COVID-19 transmission in our schools remains very uncommon,” mentioned Dr. Benjamin Springgate, the varsity system’s medical adviser.

Follow AP’s protection of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic. Follow Melinda Deslatte on Twitter at http://twitter.com/melindadeslatte.

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